Bread and Circuses
The best part of GSL is sitting on the edge of our seats during the final, assuming it’s a good final. The second best part is watching groups of death unfold. The typical Ro32 group is easily predictable, generally coming down to two obvious candidates. Here anybody can make it out, and the losers will go down kicking and screaming. We will have games, glorious ones indeed, and blood will be spilled. All hail our Korean overlords!
SKT.PartinG is a disgruntled hero in paradise. He’s flamboyant and charming in interviews, a ruthless tactician on the battlefield, and considered one of the most skilled protosses in the world. He has the support of an exemplary team, the skill and discipline to hit 6 consecutive Ro16 appearances in Code S, the consistency to stay in Code S ten seasons in a row, and enough magnetism to compensate for every bland personality in the GSL. And this state of affairs is completely unacceptable. Only two years ago, PartinG seemed destined to make the leap from bonafide star to recurring champion: in the span of three months he had won Battle.net World Championship and WCG, taken second in WCS Asia Finals and Blizzard Cup, and snatched three all-kills in team tournaments. He only trailed behind Life and Rain for most successful player during the twilight of WoL, and it’s no coincidence that his two silver medals came at their hands.
Now he’s an amazing player in a stable of amazing players, competing against a legion of amazing players. You can palpably feel the irritation in his interviews. It’s not enough that he won RBBG: New York or came in second at GSL World Championship. Winning an invite-only foreign tournament means he didn’t beat the best. Beating a sOs who preferred gas steals to good decisions meant he didn’t beat sOs at his peak performance. As PartinG has made clear, he is not content with remaining one of the best players in the world. He has the Ash Ketchum mindset and he’s aiming to win it all.
His first obstacle on the road is Samsung.Dear, someone who knows a thing or two about falling from grace. No Royal Roader in SC2 history has ever yo-yoed so precipitously as the Samsung protoss. In the course of two seasons he went from WCS champion to Code B failure. For reference it took Seed, the resident butt of jokes regarding this stuff, two seasons just to fall out of Code S. Besides taking WCS Season Finals a month later, Dear has not parlayed his initial success into an impressive career. A silver medal at Assembly Winter (which was also a shellacking at the hands of San), a semi-finals run at Hot6ix Cup, and a few top 8 showings at foreign events are all he has to show for it. Usually Royal Roaders turn their initial momentum into illustrious careers or manage to remain among the elite until the stars align again. Dear defied those expectations with his fall into relative obscurity, and one wonders whether his WCS run was a bizarre fluke.
The results at face value are a little deceiving. Yes, Dear is no longer a favorite to go deep in GSL or win the most prestigious foreign tournaments. But it’s not like he’s completely collapsed into a black hole of idiocy either. Dear has still maintained a high level of play, beating known players below the elite with a large measure of consistency. He certainly didn’t look weak during his Code A group either, coming out in first place. Compared to his glory days back in fall 2013 this sounds awfully apologetic. Dark and RagnaroK are great prodigies but not victims that deserved to be mentioned like they’re special. Dear still struggles against the cream of the crop and shows no signs of returning to their ranks. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume Dear has no chance. Great macro protosses with a habit of being scrappy should never be underestimated.
In general, protoss seems to be on the decline while terran is experiencing a strong resurgence. 4 out of 5 possible terrans have reached the Ro16, and KT.TY seeks to be the fifth. He makes his Code S return amidst much fanfare and expectation, finally rediscovering the form that he showed at the beginning of the year. His turnaround is no surprise to Brood War fans, who kept their faith in BaBy’s potential through the slog of late WoL and early HotS, and they’ll be eagerly watching tonight’s games to witness his rebirth. More cautious observers will note that the KT terran has had regular dips and spikes in form from the start of the SC2 career. With terrans everywhere enjoying real and placebo benefits thanks to the widow mine buff, TY will have more work to prove he belongs in Code S fulltime.
TY’s finishing blow against Classic in the Proleague final was the purest expression of his attitude towards SC2. The fact he pulled off the proxy 2 rax was amazing in its commitment and audacity. On the other hand, audacity has become synonymous with his name. No matter whether he is on a hot streak or a slump, TY is a scary opponent to face in a Bo3. His willingness to do anything in order to win makes him incredibly fun and frustrating to watch in equal measure. Naturally such a playstyle can result in feast-or-famine results. Most of the time TY overpowers his opponent and punishes their hesitation but occasionally, a perfect reaction results in a goofy loss.
Against anyone else TY would automatically have the initiative, but JinAir.TRUE is the type of player that will respond to aggression with aggression. The GSL semifinalist was a pleasant surprise to watch last season, dazzling us with the nuttiest cheeses as well as solid macro games. Like TY he shows no fear when it comes to risks. TRUE will proxy a hatch in your natural if he thinks you’re going nexus first. He will play muta/corruptor/queen if he believes you wouldn’t properly adjust to it. He will assemble the scariest lategame zerg army imaginable if his opponent mistakes him for a charlatan who can’t win past the midgame. TRUE is one of the most dangerous players to ever grace the GSL, and his mere presence throws a monkey wrench in the plans of the group.
Unfortunately TRUE has one blatant weakness. ZvT seems to confound him as much as he confounds those who try to decipher his method. Over the last two months TRUE is a lousy 3-11 (27.27%) in games, oddly terrible for a player who reached the top 4 of GSL. INnoVation and jjakji in the IEM Shenzhen qualifiers, BrAvO in the IEM Toronto qualifiers, Bomber at Taiwan Open…his weakness seems to run the entire gamut of skill. Then again, it explains a lot concerning his success last season. The terran drought in Season 2 played an instrumental part in TRUE’s run. Besides facing TY and SuperNova in his Code A group TRUE only had to play ZvP and ZvZ, matchups that he has no problems dominating in. His ZvP approach is extremely hard to figure out so Dear and PartinG must meet it with caution (absolute disdain also works depending on the map). Considering TRUE’s current condition in the matchup, he should be a clear favorite against Dear and a tossup versus PartinG.
Groups like this hinge on the smallest things. TRUE, TY, and PartinG are all roughly equal in form at the moment. For the most part Dear looks squarely stuck in the void between Code A and Code S skill. That would be sufficient to get through most groups, but he cannot afford to make mistakes against players of this caliber. Based on his results this summer, I don’t see him maintaining his best play throughout the night.
If TRUE didn’t have to play TY in the first match, I would label him a favorite to make it out. TRUE is playing incredibly well in ZvP and his unpredictability can be devastating if the opponent makes the wrong assumptions. But he is playing a rapidly improving terran who embraces crazy and unpredictable. Most of TRUE’s shenanigans are not absolute commitments but calculated risks, which can be regularly pulled off in ZvP but not in ZvT. If TRUE wants to continue his spree of madness he’ll have to go all out with the spine crawler rushes and nydus worms. Otherwise I see him having some major problems against TY.
TRUE < TY
PartinG > Dear
TY < PartinG
TRUE > Dear
TY > TRUE
PartinG and TY advance.